Centralized Client Configuration Management
Manually setting TCP/IP configuration parameters works well in small (geographically and in terms of number of workstations) networks. However, it quickly becomes unwieldy in larger networks, much like static HOSTS files become awkward when many hosts are invovled. Going to 5 or 6 PC Control Panels and typing in a few addresses is a simple task compared to doing the same thing for 400 PCs in three cities.
Similarly, some workstations are diskless (some Windows terminals and the network computer various industry pundits love to champion are examples of this), and might not have anywhere to store this information when the workstation is powered off. In yet another case, your network might have a limited number of IP addresses available, and many potential users who sign on and off at different times of day the normal situation for ISPs. So, the TCP/IP community got together and designed automated solutions to overcome the potential gotchas with the manual approach.
The answer to these issues with manual configuration is centralized TCP/IP client configuration via the DHCP and BOOTP protocols.
The network administrator sets up tables on one or more DHCP or BOOTP servers, which describe which pools (ranges) of IP addresses and other configuration information are available to which client workstations. When a client computer boots, it sends out its MAC address and a request for configuration information. A DHCP or BOOTP server responds back with the unique IP address to be assigned to the client and any other relevant information, and the client uses this data to update its configuration. (This is a simplification of the process. An advanced TCP/IP book would provide more details if your curiosity reaches beyond the scope of Network+).
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